Back with another edition of season previews. I'm not really sure how many guys even read it, but I know a few of us enjoy them and it adds a little bit of fun to the league. I'm in my second season of doing this now, and I'm trying to find different ways of reporting things on the blog. Last season I included the team rankings in the actual preview of the teams, but decided to put those at the beginning of the team previews so that those that wanted to check it out could and those that don't care can just skip it entirely. If anyone has any ideas to add then let me know and I can include some other things to or leave some things out. I want these to be fun for everyone and give guys a reason to come to the blog. With that said, on to the AL East previews.
SEASON 14 AL EAST PREVIEWS
Last season this division was won by a team that had a losing record. How embarrassing? Well not entirely. The division champion, Durham Doormats, actually made it out of the wild card round with a 3 games to 1 upset over the powerhouse Milwaukee Cream Citys. That run came to an end though against Syracuse in round 2 by getting swept. Overall, it wasn't a terribly unsuccessful season for the division thanks to that wild card round win. The division championship came all the way down to the end of the season and Durham barely edged out Atlanta and Toledo to take the division title. Even though the division wasn't very powerful, it did provide some excitement for the fans of these 3 cities. Let's see what the teams have done and where they are headed this season.
Season 13 record- (79-83, 1st division)
Season 13 team hitting(AL) Batting Average-9th (.271); OBP-10th (.332); Home Runs-3rd (288); Runs-11th (820); Steals-16th (29) Pitching(AL) ERA-9th (4.83); Opp Avg-9th (.281); Strike Outs-11th (1037); Saves-8th (39) Fielding(AL) Fielding %-4th (.985); Plus Plays-11th (42); Minus Plays-9th (50)
Key Acquisitions- 2B Francisco Bonilla(Promoted), SP Chris Kirk(Prom), SP Bobby McCarthy(Prom), 1B Vicente Alfonso(Prom), C Junior Ontiveros(Rule V)
Key Losses-P Julius Sowders(FA), 3B Alex Berger(FA), C Chuck Daniels(FA)
This team had their third straight losing season last season but was able to make it a successful season by winning the division and winning in the wild card round 3 games to 1 against Milwaukee. This franchise has only had 3 winning seasons and have been in rebuild mode for a few seasons now. Last season was a major step forward for this club. Instead of going the free agency route in the off season they chose to promote some of the young talent from the minors and get them started on their major league careers. These youngsters have some talent and this season should be just the start of good things to come for these players. The majority of last seasons division winning team will be back for another season and trying to move forward and get the teams record above the 500 mark. The team ranked toward the middle of the league in pitching and hitting and really didn't do much to improve upon those marks. The young players should help, but their best seasons are ahead of them and this season is more of a building block for those guys. I'm not ready to say that this team will be above 500 but the way this division played out last season they could once again take the division title. The question will be, if the other teams did enough to move past Durham at the top of the division. However it turns out, this team should continue to improve over the next couple seasons.
Atlanta Red Tide
Season 13 record- (77-85)
Season 13 team hitting(AL) Batting Average-13th (.264); OBP-15th (.323); Home Runs-9th (231); Runs-10th (825); Steals-11th (110) Pitching(AL) ERA-3rd (4.50); Opp Avg-2nd (.256); Strike Outs-14th (1009); Saves-6th (46) Fielding(AL) Fielding %-2nd (.987); Plus Plays-1st (109); Minus Plays-2nd (13)
Key Acquisitions- IF Russ Barker(FA), SS Rey Rossy(Resigned)
Key Losses-P Joel Norris(FA)
To me it looks like this team under achieved last season. They ranked toward the top of the league in fielding and pitching, but were not very impressive with the bats. That is possibly why the didn't have a winning record or take the division. They have a good mix of young talent and older experienced players on the team that all can help them out. They returned most of their players and chose to stick with the players they already have. They stayed away from free agency for the most part and didn't really lose any key players. An insider in the organization says that the team whiffed on a few big name free agent signings, so they are moving ahead with what they have in the system already. They have a couple players in the minors that could be ready to move up and help the team if they are needed, SS Phil North, and SP Lou Offerman. I think this team is on the verge of winning the division and should get their record above 500 this season. My prediction is that this team ends their 7 season run without a winning record.
Toledo Addicts Return
Season 13 record- (76-86)
Season 13 team hitting(AL) Batting Average-12th (.265); OBP-12th (.328); Home Runs-8th (234); Runs-9th (869); Steals-8th (136) Pitching(AL) ERA-10th (5.10); Opp Avg-10th (.283); Strike Outs-6th (1071); Saves-11th (36) Fielding(AL) Fielding %-12th (.981); Plus Plays-15th (27); Minus Plays-15th (80)
Key Acquisitions- SP Miguel Morlan(Tr-Tex), 3B Gary Dolan(FA), RP Albert DeRojas(FA), RP Erubiel Bennett(FA), 1B Christian Lee(Promoted)
Key Losses- OF Dave Urich(Tr-Chi), RP Bernard Hoffman(Tr-Tex), 1B Jose Martin(Tr-Van), 3B Junior Spiers(FA), SP Farmer Davis(FA)
If Atlanta under achieved, then this team over achieved. They ranked toward the bottom of the league in offense, defense, and pitching. That spells out bottom of the league in record also, but for this team that wasn't the case. They were in the divisional race up until the last few days of the season. Ownership in Toledo seems to rebuild the team every season and last season was not very successful. A season removed from winning the division and they dropped to third place and ended it with their 12th losing season in the 13 seasons of Pine Tar history. So with plenty of work to do, ownership went at it again. They made a few trades, signed a few free agents, and promoted a young player that could help this team out now. Overall, I think this team moved forward. Toledo has plenty of young players on this roster, but only a few that look like standout players. I'm not sure this is the season they move back into first in the division but they should finish close to or above 500, unless the team decides to go into full rebuild mode and trades away the talent they do have at the ML level.
Chicago Wind Tunnel
Season 13 record- (70-92)
Season 13 team hitting(AL) Batting Average-14th (.262); OBP-9th (.334); Home Runs-10th (225); Runs-15th (774); Steals-10th (114) Pitching(AL) ERA-13th (5.33); Opp Avg-12th (.287); Strike Outs-14th (1009); Saves-14th (32) Fielding(AL) Fielding %-13th (.979); Plus Plays-13th (35); Minus Plays-13th (60)
Key Acquisitions- RP Harry Moreno(Tr-Tex), P Carl Piatt(Tr-Sea), P Bernard Prince(Tr-Cin), OF Dave Urich(Tr-Tol),
Key Losses-SP Terrell Tunkel(Tr-Cin), 1B Miguel Pichardo(Tr-Sea), CF Julio Tavarez(Tr-Tex), OF Vincente Gonzalez(FA)
Chicago has now posted a losing record in 3 of the last 4 seasons, after never having a losing record in the previous 9. While they finished last in the division last season, their record actually improved by one game. Ownership is now in their 4th season with this team and the fans are getting anxious for a winner. Knowing that, they decided to make some moves to try and get this team on track. They finished toward the bottom of the league last season in hitting, pitching and defense, and really needed to upgrade quite a few positions to compete. The biggest positive on this team is that they are young. The defense still needs improved and it appears as though they took steps backward here. Offensively the trade for Urich really helps the club this season, but they lost a real good hitter in Pichardo. The offense should be better than it was last season, but overall it is nothing more than average. They needed pitching help, but traded away Tunkel. I think the 3 pitchers, Piatt, Moreno, and Prince, should upgrade the pitching some though. Overall, I think the team looks better than last season, but I don't think they will be a whole lot better. I wouldn't be surprised to see them finish last in the division again this season and pretty close to 70 wins again. They have some players down in the minors that could change that prediction a little, but not enough to compete.
I find it hard to believe that this division could produce another season where the division winner has a losing record. Toledo is always going to be alive in the trade market to improve the club if they have a chance, Atlanta looks pretty good as is, and Durham is a team that surprised last season and have some young talent. I think Chicago will not be a walk in the park series for any of these teams, but doesn't look like a team that will compete for the division title. My prediction is that it comes down to the last few games again and the division winner will have a winning record, but the runner up will fail to make the post season. I think less than 10 games will separate the 1 and 3 teams in this division.